I’ll state my verdict of Class’s opening episode at the outset: I think it’s a really promising start to a show whose concept has simultaneously been met with mixed feelings by fans and heaped with fairly high expectations. I was not among those who felt disappointed by the announcement that Class was going to be the new Doctor Who spinoff (as opposed to… I’m not sure exactly), but my expectations of the show were pretty high, if only because of how excited I was. While we’ve only seen the first two episodes so far so it’s too early to tell yet, I think what we’ve seen has shown that Class is a show with enormous promise and potential. It has a cast of really interesting characters and talented actors as well as great intelligence and creativity in its writing. It feels a little bit like Torchwood’s early days at the moment — not completely sure of its direction or purpose — but the potential is definitely there for it to be a fantastic new sci-fi drama.
I think what I’m most excited about, just from these first two episodes, is the cast of wonderful characters. I can see that a great deal of thought and care was put into assembling this lineup of characters, writing them and casting the actors to play them. Each one of them is interesting and engaging and each one of them is a character I’m really excited to get to know better. There’s so much potential for character development for each of them, and to that end we’ve already seen some meaningful development with Ram, “the boy who hears applause every time he enters a room”, undergoing horrific trauma in just the first episode (not to mention the second). The events of the first episode have brought all our main characters together in what is no doubt the foundation of an involving group dynamic along the lines of Buffy, Torchwood, Pretty Little Liars (take your pick). For my own part, I think my favourite character is April. She’s sweet and endearing, but there’s a toughness and depth there as well, and something tells me she’s going to have a fairly big role to play as the story develops.
We can see that the show is definitely testing its strengths and trying to figure out what it is in just this first episode. We know for sure now, despite the innocuous title Class, that this is definitely not a kids’ show. It’s not just that the level of violence and gore and, as I have a suspicion we’ll see in coming episodes, sexual content is inappropriate for the children who enjoy Doctor Who, it’s also that kids just wouldn’t find Class interesting. It’s a mature show dealing with mature themes. I suspect that we’ll find that the show’s focus will be less on the monsters than on the character drama, the monsters perhaps serving as instruments and metaphors for the characters’ emotional struggles, development and coming-of-age, much like in Buffy.
Perhaps that’s why, ironically, the aspects of the show which seem like they’ve received the least attention and thought are the pure science fiction elements—the monsters and the sci-fi lore (concerning Charlie and Miss Quill’s backstory). The “Shadowkin”, for example, I found quite uninventive and lame. But I appreciate that this is a premiere episode and it’s more about introducing the characters and setting up the series than telling a riveting story in its own right, so I hope that more consideration will be given to the sci-fi side of the show in coming episodes.
Also somewhat ironically, I think the Doctor’s guest sequence was one of the weaker points of this episode, just because when the Doctor arrived it suddenly turned from a Class episode into a Doctor Who episode, in the sense that the writing completely changed. It’s obvious the two shows have quite different tones, so the key-change felt slightly jarring. All the suspense and the drama the scene had built up was suddenly broken when the Doctor turned up and proceeded to crack jokes as though this were the cheap comedy episode of a Doctor Who series. The menacing figures of the Shadowkin suddenly looked like the lame and slightly comical CGI objects of the Doctor’s PG-13 comedy. That’s not to make any criticism of Peter Capaldi, who was as good as ever in the role, just that I’d like to have seen the Doctor written in a tone appropriate for this show.
As an aside, does anyone else get the feeling that Miss Quill is being written as the Whoniverse’s answer to the female Doctor controversy? It certainly looks like she’s being set up that way, given the way she’s been put into the role of defending the Earth with her young
companions charges, and defending it without weapons in true Doctor-ish style. I have no complaints because I think Miss Quill is amazing, one of the best things about this show, and I’m excited to see more of her.
Anyway, that’s my verdict of Class‘s debut. A little weak in spots, not completely sure of what it’s supposed to be yet (although it has some very exciting ideas), but it’s a debut which reveals enormous promise and potential, which hopefully it will prove itself equal to capitalising upon. It’s a show we should all be excited about.